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Abdication: A Novel
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Abdication: A Novel

2.84 of 5 stars 2.84  ·  rating details  ·  576 ratings  ·  179 reviews
“Fans of The King’s Speech will love Nicolson’s racy historical drama, set in 1936 against the backdrop of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII’s love affair” (Entertainment Weekly). The year began with the death of a beloved king and the ascension of a charismatic young monarch. By its end, the world would be stunned to see that new leader give up his throne in the name of lov ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published January 29th 2013 by Washington Square Press (first published May 8th 2012)
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Lydia Presley
I learned a valuable lesson while reading Abdication by Juliet Nicolson. I learned that no matter how beautiful the cover, how enticing the subject matter (should be), how perfect the name (and Abdication is such a beautiful name for a novel), if things just don't work, they just don't work.

I read the first 60% of the book and I felt like a cheerleader for 50% of it. It was tiring! I kept hoping, praying, eventually pleading for the characters to ignite some kind of spark inside of me, just some
...more
Cynthia Mcarthur
A sad day for a book-lover...
I have made the executive decision to stop reading Abdication. As any book-worm knows, it is almost shameful to leave a book unfinished. I could not engage with the story (or should I say stories), and I could not engage with the characters. I didn't particularly enjoy the author's writing style or the way the plot seemed to jump from character to character and place to place. I think if the author had stuck to one story-line and focused just on that, using secondar
...more
Cynthia
Nicholson has a knack for making history come alive! Unfortunately the abdication of Edward VIII and his entanglement with Wallis Simpson is left in the background. When Nicholson tells David (Edward VIII) and Wallis’ story it truly sparkles. The details are incredible even down to how they spoke, looked, and what they wore. The story of May, a 19 year old woman of Scottish descent, who grew up in Barbados, is lackluster however. There’s also a side story involving Evangeline who was a school fr ...more
J.M. Cornwell

What do you say when you have high hopes for a juicy steak full of flavor and discover it has been replaced with soy protein? That is how I felt about Juliet Nicolson's foray into fiction . . . blah.

That is not to say that there isn't a story here among the ramblings and character sketches that are less than sketches. The moments between Wallis and the Prince of Wales are perfect right down to the smallest details of how Wallis briefly touched the Prince's hand to get him to stop smoking at t

...more
Susanhayeshotmail.com
One point five stars. Why oh why did I even finish this? Friends, do NOT be pulled in by back cover advertising that uses words like vivid and absorbing, any shout out recommendations to fans of Downtown Abby or how this begs to be made into a period drama by BBC. The only way that could be successful is if they tossed out 90% of the book and came up with an actual plot and found the characters some personality and figured out some way to make you give a solitary rip about them. Oh, and come up ...more
Karen
What on earth was meant to be the point of this book? In spite of the title, it certainly wasn't the story of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson; they're nothing more than walk-ons. Nor was it the stories of either of the two primary characters, Evangeline Nettleford, childhood friend of Wallis, or May Thomas, Barbados-born but in England working as chauffeuse to respected MP Sir Philip Blunt, because neither story took center stage and neither was very effectively resolved. It wasn't the intersecti ...more
Ally
A really enjoyable read but all the same ever so slightly disappointing. It began with most of the elements I love in a story, a bit of history, some politics and told through the eyes of a female driver which gave it a bit of a feminist angle too. However, the story of the title - the abdication of Edward VIII - was not that prominent, just humming away in the background rather than being the main focus as I'd expected it to be. The main story rested on the experiences of May the female driver ...more
Pam Asberry
I tend to gravitate towards modern-day women's fiction, so I wasn't prepared for this book to resonate with me like it did. A fictional account of the events surrounding the abdication of King Edward VIII from the throne at the beginning of the second World War, this fascinating narrative weaves the stories of the actual participants and imaginary onlookers in a seamless and engrossing way.

First, we meet May Thomas, newly arrived in England from the island of Barbados, who along with her brother
...more
Northwestreader
This book was not what I had anticipated; I had expected it to focus on the unprecedented abdication of the King of England. Instead, this is a work of fiction that merely uses the abdication as a backdrop, as a way to set the historical period.

There are two main characters, one is a fictional friend of Wallis Simpson and the other is a young female who is hired as a secretary and driver for a member of the British Parliament. Unfortunately, the first one is portrayed almost exclusively as a car
...more
Ruth
This one is classified as a novel, although I would probably be more tempted to call it "historical fiction". A novel in my mind would need greater depth of characterization and motivation than this book offers, although the historical detail is the most enjoyable part.

What I liked:

- The period setting. Not enough fiction has been set in this period IMO. I couldn't manage to watch Downton Abbey (sorry DA fans, but it just felt like a cartoon to me, and not half as compelling as a decent book), b
...more
Mary Gramlich
When does what I know stop being a secret and turn into an unreleased issue?

In 1936, May Thomas finds herself traveling to England in search of work, and inadvertently becomes tangled in history as it is happening. She becomes a chauffeur to a family closely associated with King Edward and Wallis Simpson, a woman determined to have whatever she wants regardless of the consequences. May knows and accepts her position to keep a low profile, and whatever she happens to see to herself. Yet watching
...more
Samantha
I wanted to like this book more than I did. Nicolson has a couple of non-fiction credits to her name, and she has a definite gift for exposition, but this same gift can make a novel a little too plot- and detail driven. It examines the time around Edward VIII's abdication through the perspectives of May, a young female chauffeur recently arrived from Barbados, Evangeline, a long-time friend of Wallis Simpson's, and Julian, an undergraduate and friend of the family of May's employers. The charact ...more
Jaylia3
One king dies and his eldest son ascends to the throne and then abdicates in order to marry a woman who apparently tries to convince him to do otherwise. Oswald Mosley and his blackshirt fascists are gaining strength, but the Spanish Civil War is inspiring young men to fight for an opposite cause. Britain in the tumultuous year of 1936 is the backdrop for this novel, and as in her two riviting nonfiction accounts of the times on either side of WWI, author Juliet Nicolson includes a wealth of fas ...more
Maia B.
This could have been amazing, one of the best books of the year, one of the best books ever. Interlocking stories, English culture, fascinating characters...well, two out of three.

The writing was really, really mediocre - not quite Syrie-James or Meyer bad, but way below the standard of even most typical YA. I mean, Shannon Hale, Patricia Wrede, J.K. Rowling (duh), Mary Hooper all outdo Nicolson by MILES. Literally miles. And Nicolson does so much telling, and so little showing, that it was toug
...more
Care
I was drawn to this novel, which tells the story of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII, albeit as secondary characters, after watching the movie, [i]The King’s Speech[/i], which I loved. This is a debut novel for the author, Juliet Nicholson, but she is a well known and respected writer of nonfiction and has written on this time period. In the interest of full disclosure, I freely admit that my knowledge of this subject is absolutely minimal, so I was relying completely upon Ms. Nicholson’s backgrou ...more
Susan
Having really enjoyed Juliet Nicolson's two social history books, The Perfect Summer: Dancing into Shadow in 1911 and The Great Silence, I was intrigued to read the authors first novel. In "Abdication", Nicolson turns her attention to the tumultuous year of 1936, looking through the eyes of three characters on the fringe of the action. The first is May Thomas, who leaves Barbados with her brother Sam, to come to England and finds a job as a driver/secretary for Sir Phillip and Lady Joan Bradley. ...more
Jo
Originally posted on The Tiny Book Nook

My Rating: 2.5 out 5

Overall, this wasn't exactly a page turner. Although it is well written and full of detailed descriptions. I started to read this thinking that the plot was intriguing and I was eager to see how the characters' lives were influenced by this particular event in British history.

Nicholson's characters were full of detail. She provides structured background information about them, detailing their lives up to the small things that lead them
...more
Sabrina Laitinen
I really enjoyed this novel, and can totally see how BBC will turn this into a great mini-series, as is indicated on the book cover. It centers around London, 1936, during the reign of King Edward VII. May is a young girl from Barbados, who along with her brother, are sent to England to be cared for by their aunt. May is hired as a chauffer for Sir Philip Blunt, and finds herself immersed in a subdued, if not secret side of British royalty, politics and upper class society. Other characters are ...more
Michael
England, 1936. The beloved king has died and a charismatic new monarch has been crowned; he is young, sympathetic to the needs of the working class, glamorous and single. By the end of the year England will be surprised to see him give up the throne for love and the lead up to World War II. Abdication follows the story of May Thomas, a wise-beyond-her-nineteen-year old who secures a position as secretary and driver to Sir Philip Blunt. This opens her eyes to British high society and falling in l ...more
Aimee
When I heard about this book I was so excited to read it, it seemed to have everything I love in historical fiction: great characters, lots of history, a setting I love, and a little romance. Unfortunately the book did not live up to my expectations. It was well written and the subject was interesting, but the story never pulled me in or caught my interest for very long. The main problem I had was that it seemed to take so long for the book to go anywhere as far as a plot. I kept reading and wai ...more
Jan
This backdrop of this novel is England in the thirties, during the love affair and subsequent abdication of King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.

This memorable and epic event, seen through the eyes of the main character, May Thomas, begins with her employment as a chauffeur by Sir Philip Blunt, a government official who is close to the affair. May meets Wallis when she brings Mrs Nettlefold, an old friend of Wallis, to the Fort, where Prince Edward has taken up residence. May also meets Julian,
...more
Amy
England 1936. The country is mourning the death of the King, the heir is involved in a questionable romance with a married (and divorced) American, unemployment is a problem, as it the imminent threat of war. Abdication, the first novel for author Juliet Nicolson, explores this very unique and volatile time in history. Nineteen year old May Thomas, a recent arrival to England from her home in Barbados secures a job as a secretary and driver to Sir Philip Blunt, where she often finds herself expo ...more
Colleen Semanek
It looked like a cool subject, but it was a disappointing story - the actual abdication was just basically a side story. On top of that, I felt the author was constantly trying to impress with her vocabulary. The writing was a little disjointed too.
At first I thought I'll never try another of her books, but since this was her first novel, I will reserve judgment on future books. If the story looks appealing, I'll give it a try, but I'll know in the first 50 pages whether I wanted to continue.
Joanna
Even for a beach read, this was disappointing. All the poor people have hearts of gold! All the rich people are assholes!

Most baffling was the weird treatment of sex - the protagonist's dad is clearly UP TO NO GOOD, but he'll just breathe on your and pet your hair in a creepy way. I feel like the author wanted to give our heroine a tragic backstory, but not TOO tragic. What we end up with is a girl who is seemingly damaged from abuse becoming really sex-positive after crushing on some dude for
...more
Rebecca Huston
This rapidly became my pick for the worst novel of 2012. The author attempts to tell the story of Wallis Simpson and the Prince of Wales from the viewpoint of two women -- May, a chauffeur from the West Indies, and Evangeline, a would-be society lady from America. Instead of any new insights or new ideas, this rapidly became a tedious bore of a book. The author was more interested in name dropping and putting in scenes of how 1936 was a year of momentous events from strikes, the rise of fascism, ...more
Sharen
A great read! In a film, the director has a team of specialists, but in a historical novel the author has to get the history right and, with exceptional attention to detail, be the set and costume designer as well. Juliet Nicolson's family background may have helped but she has done an extraordinary amount of research to create a snapshot of England in 1936 that truly resonates with the reader. Her characters draw out the many aspects of life during this period - the class system in England and ...more
Lucy Saint-smith
Abdication follows the story of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson as seen through the eyes of one of Wallis's close friends and the chauffeur of a politician. Although I enjoyed reading it, it seemed in many ways to be a re-hash of similar stories, I particularly thought of the Upstairs, Downstairs Christmas episodes from a few years ago. I suppose that is a difficulty of writing historical fiction about well-known events, but I felt that Abdication didn't really add anything to the story, or offer ...more
Honor Kelly
This book deserves credit for a great idea (has there been a good novel of the abdication of Edward VIII) and well-done period descriptions, but I must agree with other reviewers that it is not a page-turner (except in the sense that I skipped many pages of exposition in order to see if there would be any plot developments, and to feel that I finished the book). The stories of the apparent main characters kept getting in the way of HRH and Wallis--and it's their story that we want to hear and se ...more
Jodi
This book was trying to do too much. To be honest, I continued to read it to see what else the author would toss into the story.
The plot included:
A mom committing suicide
Communists
Fascists
A mom having a stroke
Hitler
Blackshirts
Children used to target Jewish homes with graffiti
A mom having an affair
A father molesting his daughter
Gentile and Jew tensions
Female chauffeur
A mom dying in prison serving time as a suffragette
1936 Berlin Olympics
Discrimination against Jews
Lesbianism
A father drownin
...more
Alice
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Juliet Nicolson is the author of 'The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm' and 'The Great Silence: Britain From the Shadow of the First World War to the Dawn of the Jazz Age.' She read English at Oxford University and has worked in publishing in both the UK and the United States. She has two daughters, and lives with her husband in Sussex.
More about Juliet Nicolson...
The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm The Great Silence A Daughter's Life: Seven generations, one family The Edwardians The Best of Books and Company: about books for those who delight in them

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“That long-gone sense of innocence and trust now reminded her of the feeling she now had when about to put on a new dress, or when given a box of chocolates sealed up in its wrapper. Everything was lovely in the anticipation. There must have been a time, she thought wistfully, when disappointment was an undiscovered emotion. 2 likes
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